San Bernardino Stampede
The San Bernardino Stampede of San Bernardino, California, played seven seasons in the California League. In that short time, they served as a Class A-Advanced affiliate of two MLB teams, the Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners. The identity began when the San Bernardino Spirit opted to rebrand in conjunction with the opening of San Bernardino Stadium (“the Ranch”) in 1996.
The Stampede made some interesting branding decisions. Team colors were an interchangeable mix of Dodger blue, black, and burgundy, with a little tan thrown in for good measure. Their logo was an intense-looking horse with its body torqued at an awkward angle with head reared to the side and left leg extended. In the primary logo, the horse torso (horso?) perched alongside the team wordmark, blowing steam from its nostrils onto the word Stampede. In the cap logos, the horso was either nestled into an S or bursting from a hole in a baseball. I suppose that it was either a normal-sized horse and a giant baseball or a normal-sized baseball and a tiny horse. Either way, it’s one of the more bizarre cap logos of the era.
On the field at the Ranch, the Stampede were lucky to have an affiliation with the regionally-popular Dodgers. This affiliation lasted for five years, and bore fruit immediately with the great Adrián Beltré manning the hot corner in that first year of 1996. David Ross and Ted Lilly are the next most notable Stampeders to pass through during the Dodgers days, though Los Angeles sent many big-leaguers to San Bernardino for rehab stints and last gasps. In 2001, the Dodgers temporarily left the California League and had only the Vero Beach Dodgers as a High-A affiliate. The Stampede then linked up with the Mariners for two years, a time that saw Rafael Soriano and Shin-Soo Choo added to the alum list.
The end of the Stampede identity came in a gentle way. The franchise opted for a new brand, taking on a regional place name and identifying themselves with the famous highway that passes through San Bernardino. The Inland Empire 66ers play in the California League to this day, and the Stampede were trampled out of existence long ago.